Kayaking with young children.

I have just purchased an OT Otter and a Loon 111. My 4 year old daughter is really interested in coming out with me. Would someone know if the Loon 111 is safe to bring a 4 year old out on? She has a new PFD that is coast guard approved and I intend only to bring her out on a flat pond in our town. But, I’m still nervous. Is this considered a safe practice or should a wait a few more years?

Some thoughts
You’ll get a bunch of people that will tell you about lessons - I’ll let them do that.

I think this is a pretty simple question with a pretty straightforward way to determine the safety - if you tossed your daughter in the water in the lake what would happen? Would she swim and say this is fun, or would she cry, gasp, and you’ve got an immediate drowning risk? If the latter is the case then the issue isn’t kayaking, the issue is swimming lessons and I wouldn’t do a thing until she learned that this summer.

The reason is simple, all the lessons in the world are not going to be a lot of help if you fall in and 100% of your attention and energy is required to save her. DO NOT RELY ON A PFD! I’m very serious about this - put your child in the lake with the pfd if you like - but unless she is comfortable in the water, do not take her in the kayak.

After that exercise then the issue is: how do you intend to handle things if the boat goes over? Have you had training and have you practiced this?

Consider also: what is the temperature of this water? How comfortable and how much dexterity will you have after 20 minutes in the water with her?

Do some reading, get some lessons, get some experience, and make sure she is a swimmer.

Stay in shallow water.
Practice capsizing and floating in her PFD. Stay close to shore. Make sure her PFD is a good fitting one with a crotch strap and a grab loop.

If you take precautions it can be safe for a small child. Make sure the child is comfortable swimming or playing in their PFD in water over their head. Sounds like you will need a bigger boat soon. A tandem SOT is great for kids and Dad.

paddling with kids
When it comes to kids in boats, the younger the better. Ours were in boats as soon as they could get into a lifejacket- barely 15lbs. They have no sense of fear and become comfortable with the rockiness. If the boat has a large cockpit you can have her sit right between your legs or up towards the front. Bring a few small things (books or toys) in case she gets bored and let her take a turn at paddling or “help” you paddle. It is such a wonderful way to spend time with them.

Thanks for the input so far. My daughter is 4, so she certainly isn’t a superior swimmer. However, she is very comfortable in the water. She can swim (with PFD or swimmies) without assistance. The water we would kayak in is not very deep and, though not warm yet, shouldn’t be too cold as long as we weren’t in it for very long. There is also no motor boats in this pond, so I don’t expect much in the way of wake on a calm day. I certainly think we can handle it, but I also don’t want to put her in any danger. Maybe lessons are a good idea if I can find a place that gives them.

Thanks again.

comfort in the water is key
I’d agree with what gary posted. I agree a PFD is necessary but really what’s important is her comfort in the water, and how she’ll react if/when she does get dumped. Once you’ve paddled with her a few times I would consider getting out of the boat and into the water in a controlled fashion. Make it fun.

no problem
My daughter’s first river trip was at 8 months. I designed and used a floating car seat in her early years. Always took her to the pool in the winter with the boats and she was comfortable in the water almost from birth. Just make sure she will be happy if she goes in the water.